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What to watch for in Dolphins-Patriots on 'TNF'

Dan Campbell's surging Miami Dolphins travel to New England to face the undefeated Patriots in a suddenly intriguing AFC East clash.

Here's what we'll be watching for on Thursday night:

  1. Campbell deserves all of the credit he has received for breathing new life into what was shaping up as a wasted season, but it's worth noting that the Dolphins are a materially different team now than they were when Joe Philbin was fired.

The team's highest-paid stars are finally healthy. With six sacks and four forced fumbles over the past two weeks, Cameron Wake has been as dominant as any defensive player in the league since recovering from an early-season hamstring injury. Cornerback Brent Grimes is playing well now that he's over his MCL sprain. Branden Albert has returned to anchor the offensive line. Finally being showcased following the coaching changes, Ndamukong Suh and Lamar Miller are coming off their best games of the season. Tomato-can opponents aside, this is now a playoff-caliber team.

  1. Tom Brady said this week that he's a better quarterback now than he was five years ago. That's not hyperbole. His receivers dropped an NFL season-high nine passes last week, and he still riddled the league's No. 1 defense for 355 yards and three total touchdowns. A slimmer Brady is more nimble in the pocket and has lost nothing from his fastball. He continues to put on a quarterbacking clinic, attacking the right players on the right down and distance. With the exception of the 2014 regular-season finale in which Brady rested for half of the game, he's led the Pats to victory in 19 of his last 20 starts.
  1. We naturally envision Brady and Bill Belichick when we picture the Patriots' dynasty, glossing over the salient point that last year's roster was the youngest ever to win the Super Bowl. Linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower lead a talented young defensive nucleus that features a versatile, highly athletic front seven. Hightower made nine plays in the backfield versus the Jets. Nine!
  1. No wide receiver stops and starts as quickly as Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry, who provided one of the most jaw-dropping plays of the season last week with a 50-yard bob-and-weave touchdown that covered 109 yards in total distance. Outside of Larry Fitzgerald's renaissance, there hasn't been a better slot receiver this season.
  1. In the offseason of 2014, reports surfaced suggesting the Patriots would dump Danny Amendola after a groin injury sabotaged his first season in New England. Common sense ultimately prevailed, much to New England's benefit. Amendola has been outstanding since last year's playoffs, including a highlight-reel performance in the win over the Jets. Over the past 11 games, Brady has a 122.1 passer rating on throws to Amendola compared to 106.8 to Rob Gronkowski and 99.3 to Julian Edelman. And to think Belichick was criticized for choosing Amendola over Wes Welker in 2013.
  1. Patriots running back Dion Lewis (abdominal injury) will play tonight versus the Dolphins, a source told NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.

Asked earlier this week if Lewis will play after sitting out last week's game, Belichick replied, "We'll see tomorrow. We didn't really practice this week. My mom could've gotten through practice." Lewis has been one of the NFL's most fun players to watch this season, consistently making the first defender miss as a jitterbug runner and receiver.

  1. Campbell referred to Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski as an "animal" this week. "We'll probably put the whole secondary on him," Campbell quipped.
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